A season of great promise quickly evaporated on the cold turf this past Sunday at Hersheypark Stadium as Central Catholic's football team saw its dreams of an undefeated season and a PIAA Class AAAA state championship extinguished amid St. Joseph's Prep's second-half outburst in a 35-10 victory for the Hawks.
The loss was the first blemish on an otherwise outstanding season for the 15-1 Vikings. Coach Terry Totten said he could see the momentum take a decided turn in the third quarter.
"There were about eight minutes left in the third quarter when they seized control, and we could never get it back," Totten said.
Coincidentally, that was about the same time Vikings quarterback and Florida State recruit J.J. Cosentino was injured and had to leave the game.
"He has an ankle sprain, but it's not going to need surgery or anything like that," he said.
Vikings' trainers wrapped Cosentino's ankle on the sideline, and he was walking around. But the decision was made to hold him out for the rest of the game. When he left the game, Cosentino had completed 1 of 4 passes for 7 yards. His replacement, Graham Adomitis, who is usually the team's starting tight end, completed 2 of 5 passes for 42 yards.
While the bitter taste may linger for a while, Totten said his players have many reasons to hold their heads high in the just-completed season.
Even with the 35 points yielded to St. Joseph's Prep, the Vikings completed the season allowing just 7.3 points per game, the best defensive yield of any team in the WPIAL, regardless of class.
That's a significant point for Totten.
"When they walked off the field in 2012, their last game was a 38-0 loss to Upper St. Clair [in the WPIAL quarterfinals]" he said. "After that game, they got together and formed a heck of a football team. I think we played the only team in the state [in the championship game] that could beat us."
Totten said the reason for the team's success was the efforts of defensive coordinator David Fleming. A Central graduate, he has been on the Vikings' staff for 14 years.
"He might be one of the few people who has fought bacterial meningitis and survived it," Totten said. "He's a big inspiration to our players."
Central loses nine starters from its offense, but returns six defensive starters.
Totten believes the program will continue to flourish.
"There are a lot of quality athletes in our program," he said. "We're going to be fine."
Totten said a 42-0 victory against Seneca Valley in late September gave him the belief that the Vikings would be a solid team.
"That was our first big conference game, and we handled them pretty well," he said. "I thought at that point we could be pretty special."
That victory might have been a telling point for this team as it was one of seven shutouts the Vikings recorded this season.
But Totten agreed the most memorable moment came in the 27-7 victory against Woodland Hills in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game. That's when Riley Redman's punt bounced backward and on Central Catholic's side of the line of scrimmage.
Adomitis picked up the ball and stood for about three seconds before heeding some sage advice from Vikings assistant Rick Capretta.
"He told [Adomitis] to run, and he did," Totten said.
Escorted by about a half-dozen teammates, Adomitis ran 66 yards for a touchdown that was officially recorded as a rush from scrimmage.
Capretta and the referees were the only people on the field who knew that a punt that did not carry beyond the line of scrimmage could be picked up and advanced by the offensive team.
That was enough for Totten.
"I told Rick great job, and I thanked him for his head's-up thinking," he said.
Totten knew he'd have a tough time talking with his team following Sunday's loss.
"I've won state championships and I've had my head kicked in before," he said. "I told the guys the sun would come up tomorrow, and that [this loss] is just a bump in the road. If we got everything we wanted, then life wouldn't be life as you know it."